After the political, social and cultural rollercoaster that was 2016 and the waves of news that crashed upon us almost unrelentingly, the Christmas period and the new year have hopefully given many of us a chance to reflect on events in Scotland and abroad. One mantra that has stood out to us at Shelter Scotland amidst the thousands of voices and opinions is that of needing to regroup, reflect and reorganise. And this relates to homelessness as much as anything.
Scotland and its government have done some truly exceptional and innovative work since 2003 in tackling homelessness, and the removal of priority need in 2012 felt like the star on top of the Christmas tree. However, resting on our laurels is like leaving the Christmas tree in the company of pets, and will come crashing down if left unsupervised. Homelessness is not something we can stand idly by and watch while events such as upcoming welfare changes critically threaten the way crucial services such as temporary accommodation are funded and run.
Scottish Government figures show that homelessness assessment numbers and numbers of households in temporary accommodation have remained fairly stagnant. This stagnation shows that we need to re-evaluate our approach and better understand the drivers of homelessness so that we can take more practical steps to ensure that nobody falls through the safety net.
As always, we can take lessons from our neighbours in tackling homelessness. Shelter Cymru recently published research into the experiences of users of homelessness services under the new Welsh prevention legislation. Northern Ireland are reflecting on the region’s 2012-2017 homelessness strategy and looking ahead to the new strategy.
Looking to the year ahead, we want to see 2017 as the year that Scotland re-forged a commitment to tackling homelessness. Shelter Scotland are calling for a refreshed homelessness plan and programme which would set new horizons for homelessness services and deliver on other national priorities such as improving social justice, bridging the attainment gaps in schools and focusing public spending on prevention work. These themes are the basis for our Far from Fixed campaign which was launched in September and our annual homelessness conference will follow the same message.
Shelter Scotland’s annual homelessness conference will be held on the 22nd March 2017 at St Paul’s and St George’s Church in Edinburgh. To book your place, click here.